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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Take Kids Deep Inside Where the Deep Web Hides



simulpost with TechLearning

Dr. Robert McLaughlin was one of our guests on the Wow2 show this past Tuesday night and made some interesting comments about and the importance of tapping into deep web resources.

I think that many of us, myself included just forget about the importance of the deep web. And with fully 95% of deep web resources being free, there is no excuse for not exposing students (and ourselves) to this amazing part of the Internet.

With the "deep web", some experts estimate that 50 times the data than is available on the surface web (sites indexable by search engines) reside behind deep web - password protected databases, non-indexed web pages or query-only databases.



I will admit, I'm really a beginner at the deep web, but have begun my journey.

I want to share with you some of the deep web information and resolutions of mine since I've begun my own intentional exploration of the deep web:

Share the tutorials and resources that helped me understand this better:
Now, don't think that Google doesn't access any deep web resources, as Google Book Search, Google Scholar, and Microsoft's Windows Live Academic "are examples where lines between the deep web and surface web are blurring" according to the Internet Tutorials resource on the Deep Web.

Yes, I think that the surface web is so important because many people do not understand the Deep web (myself included). Many people start and end with Google and that's it.

However, as an educator, if a student to leaves my classroom and thinks that Google is the only place to search, I believe that I will have done a disservice.

I'm sure that some advocates of free-everything will advocate that all deep web resources should "come out" to the surface, I believe that there will always be deep web resources and that an effective digital citizen will acknowledge the existence of multiple sources of information.

As much as I love Google, to depend entirely on Google is akin to our total dependence on Microsoft in the late 1980's and most of the 1990's. I believe that variety and diversity is an important part of the Internet.

I have as an objective of mine to integrate more deep web resources into my classroom and teaching.

Please share what you know.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Research 1.0 in a Web 2.0 world



I'm excited about tonight's Wow2 show that starts in about 30 minutes (9 pm EST) with Dr. Mary Friend Shepherd - Professor and Program Director for the PhD Educational Technology Program at Walden and Dr. Robert McLaughlin, Chair, ISTE SIG on Digital Equity; Chair, ISTE SIG on Innovative Learning Technologies and
Executive Director, National Institute for Community Innovations. It is going to be a great conversation.

Here are the planned talking points:

  1. Wow's - Jennifer, Sharon, Cheryl, Vicki
  2. Introduction
  3. Research 2.0 Discussion - Talk about any current research that you are aware of that is important for those who are looking at Web 2.0 to understand.
  4. The Evolution of the PhD Program -- Why does it need to evolve? If so, how?
  5. Meaningful, Connected Research - How can we connect the research of PhD students to that of relevant classroom needs.
  6. If you could create your ideal PhD program, what would it be?
  7. Time Permitting
    • How can we involve researchers, who typically don't blog, in the conversations in the blogosphere?
    • What is the role of the teacher in research? Researcher in teaching?
It's free - come on over.

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Acceptable Use Should Include Acceptable Filming



Protecting teachers and students from unauthorized filming is an issue as can be seen with what happened to this fifth grade teacher at an event that many people film -- the fifth grade graduation.

The video's originator filmed the teacher at graduation with close ups of her face and zooming in on her lower anatomy and set the 3 minute clip to "hot For Teacher" before it was taken down off youtube when she found out about it last week.

We should be discussing privacy concerns in amateur videos. We should learn about and be educated on what is it proper to share and what is not.

The reason we don't talk about it more, I think, is a sinking feeling in our own stomachs that perhaps we don't know what to tell kids or adults!

I always tell students that to post any digital artifact (podcast, photo, video) of a person that you must have that person's specific permission -- let them see it and ask them. (Of course, what if their parents argue that they are a minor and don't have a right to decide.)

It saddens me that such things happen but I also rejoice in the new Internet and its possibilities.

Sometimes we just need to think. I find it interesting now the number of times YouTube is mentioned on the evening news each night. Has anyone ever counted?

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Kids Making Money: Hacking iPhones and Catching Baseballs





Tenacity and Determination

This is an interview that George Hotz did about how he unlocked the iPhone. (A fact which he announced on his blog on August 21st.) Determined to use his iPhone on his T-mobile service, he reverse engineered it (over 500 hours of time) and made it so he can use it with his Tmobile service. He shared it on his blog and youtube (and has his own wikipedia entry!)

He asks for a one on one talk with Steve Jobs! I love it! What I love, this student is seventeen and look at how eloquent he is! (He attended Bergen County Academies, a magnet public high school in New Jersey.)

Being at the Right Place at the Right Time

Oh, and by the way, the twenty one year old kid who caught Barry Bond's homerun setting ball, is set to begin the auction at http://www.scpauctions.com/.

Although the path to riches and albeit perhaps temporary fame can be achieved by either luck or hard work. Those who stay there (if that is something to be pursued) stay there via hard work.

We've discussed this extensively in my classes and comparing these two cases makes for interesting conversation with teenagers.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Online Connections Course gets a Cool Cat Teacher Award




Sometimes I just want to reach through the Internet and give a super big High-Five, hug, and "yahoo" all at once.

This is how I felt when I read about Jennifer Dorman's class that she has developed called Online Connections.

I also want to give a high five to the administration that had the vision (and trust) to give her the reigns for developing such a class.

(I believe that teachers should be enmeshed in curricular decisions and in fact that will do a lot to prevent waste and promote improvement. As a whole, I believe that education has a lot of decision makers who couldn't hold down a class much less teach anything. But that is another blog post.)

Jennifer says:

The class is called Online Connections and the focus of it is loosely centered around the notion that technology has changed the way people learn and work and that we must expose our students to the reality of this changing world. For a techie and former social studies teacher who often felt somewhat constrained by curriculum, this is like going to teacher heaven.


Now, take a look at her outline:

I created essential questions and enduring understandings for the course and posted them on the class wiki. While these statements make a lot of sense to me, I have been challenged by how to make them clear and meaningful for my students (who I will only see for 22 school days!).
  • I created a partnership with a class at the Korea International School,
  • generated a learners toolbox that students will use to review Web 2.0 applications and how they can be harnessed to learn and create products of value,
  • aggregated various news feeds to help students gain a more global perspective,
  • put together resources to help students construct understanding of copyright and online safety,
  • and am in the process of developing what I hope will be a Quadrant D


I challenge you to go to her blog and read more! So, this is why I created a Cool Cat Teacher Award for her work. (Who knows I may give more in the future?)

1) She partnered with a school in another country.

2) She created a learners toolbox full of some great tools, along with a class wiki to pull it all together.

3) She harnessed the power of RSS to customize information from the Internet. (She used Grazr like we did for Horizon.)

4) She addresses digital citizenship. (See Copyright Information and Online Safety from her wiki.)

5) Her purpose is to create a shift in their thinking and perception backed up by valid research-based methods of teaching and a desire for excellence backed up with a purpose for participation and global awareness.

6) She makes no excuses. (She only has 22 class days but is full of optimism and can-do attitude.)

Her wiki has blown me away and I've got ideas for how I'm going to revamp my wiki! And I love her inclusion of Derek Wenmoth's Four C's of participation in online communities.



One of my purposes in blogging this year is to share what great teachers like Jennifer are planning and doing! Great job! (If you know of one, let me know.)

Congratulations, Jennifer! You've done an outstanding job getting this course together, let me know how it goes.

And a word to administrators out there -- empower a teacher to develop a course like this! I would argue that such a course will do more to benefit the future of students than any other course that could be offered.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

How to share your smart board screen on your wiki



I'm really starting to fall in love with my Polyvision board (Smartboard). It has taken me a while to get comfortable with it and really run quickly between write and click mode, but I've just started doing something that my students LOVE.

When I review for a test -- we've already taught and retaught. But we cover so unbelievably much that I like to give a good review.

This week, as a part of the review process-- I used the whiteboards that were generated and shared them on their notes wiki that had already been created. (Take a look at combined wiki notes and smartboard screenshots.)

This is one screen from the computer science review. (I always mark terms and items that are included. Additionally, the students are required to take notes every day and turn them in as 10 points on the test. )



You can also see my intro to keyboarding quiz review.



So, if you have a smartboard of any kind, this is what you need to do to accomplish this:

1) Learn how to save your screen in the smartboard. I just click the Save button on my remote control. (I also print a copy for my notes binder.)

(I set mine to my directory on the server so I can go back to my desk and do the next steps.)

2) Create a wiki for your notes that your students can access.

(You can do this on a blog too, however, it might take a little longer and some blogs require the images come from elsewhere, a wiki will upload the images for you.)

3) Create a page for the notes for that test.

For keyboarding, I will have so few quizzes, that I am using one page -- one page per test for computer science.

4) Edit the page, and put your blinker where you want to insert the image.

Hint: Make sure that you leave several enters and spaces AFTER the place where your cursor is so you won't have to learn how to go down after the image or start over.


5) Click the image button (on wikispaces it looks like a picture), browse for the image and then click Upload. Double Click the Image to put it on your page.

6) Position on the page and shrink.

After you double click the image and put it on the page, it will usually be HUGE. (Unless you go in your smartboard settings and reduce the save resolution - which I'll probably do next week.)

To make it smaller in wikispaces, you have to go to the bottom LEFT hand corner to get the double arrow to drag and make it smaller. It will look like you're making NO progress, but you are. It will take several drags to shrink the image down to fit on the page.

7) As an add onto this --
I may work to have students integrate their notes in and under these images.

(Remember, these are the beginnings of my year -- my topics may look easy now but they will progress.)

Something I wish for:

What would be great would be a system that would record the podcast, record the smartboards that I save and then upload it to be accessible automatically (via private portal or something.)

To me the limitation of doing this (although very beneficial to the students) is the manual labor required to make it happen. Sharing these files should be easier or at least require less manual labor. For those of us who teach bell to bell and have a really full schedule, we don't have a lot of time to add this to our plate.

Some might think such readily accessible information might encourage absenteeism, I think it will encourage excellence. It has just got to be easier and more streamlined.

Perhaps you know of something that would do this.


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Friday, August 24, 2007

How I get their attention: Businessweek's Future of Work



I love listening to both the Businessweek and Wall Street Journal podcasts. They are brief, pithy podcasts with great information that is applicable across the board.

This week, I am requiring my ninth graders to listen to this podcast about the future of work. Here are the questions I'm asking them:

As we discuss how things are changing, Businessweek has created an issue about the future of work. This is the world that you will be living in. Listen to this brief podcast and answer the following. (please number)

1) What is changing about the workplace in America?
2) What type of people will continue to be employed? (What characteristics will they have.)
3) What do you find most interesting that was discussed?
4) Are you personally optimistic or pessimistic about future employment opportunities for you and why.

Kids need to know WHY things are important. Why is it important to adopt an attitude of change? Why is it important to learn? Why there are no guarantees any more!

It has been a great week!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summary of Edubloggerworld Activities today: Join the Brainstorm



It has been a busy day over at edubloggerworld with the fun virtual meetups and discussions. I have a lot to share with you. There are more people joining in to discuss some ideas and issues.

I'm going to share with you the e-mail I just sent moments a go about my work today on this project to some of the other people who helped set this up.

OK, I just spent five hours I didn't have but we all know the feeling.

I posted the elluminate session on the home page ( listen to it here) and created templates for talking points ( http://edubloggerworld.wikispaces.com/space.template.Talking+Points+Template) and tags (http://edubloggerworld.wikispaces.com/space.template.Standard+Tag ). Feel free to go to manage space and manage templates and edit them. It will not effect the current four talking points and all of the existing tags, but it is still small and manageable.

Also, I created a talking points page ( http://edubloggerworld.wikispaces.com/talking+points) with the major points from my session (y'all add any others that you see.)

The video for airset is posted on the calendar sharing page and you can see it here. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAcRCCikR6s

Here are the talking points:
1. Ongoing Unconference
2. Tagging Standards
3. Welcoming Beginners
4. Calendar Sharing

Here are the current tags in use on the site - they have pages and RSS feeds built for google blogsearch and delicious. I also want us to consider advocating that every education related post posted by us is tagged education -- we should be able to make education become an important topic of interest on technorati. Why we haven't done this before, I'm not sure. What do you think?

Edubloggerworld


These tags will be used to pull information into the edubloggerworld website and wiki and your RSS reader based on the use of these tags. We will use Google Blog Search and del.icio.us as our two sources of information. Click on a tag to see current information about that topic.
  • edubloggerworld The tag for writing about edubloggerworld in general
  • edubloggerworld2007 - The tag for writing about events that you would like the edubloggerworld to know about -- these will be pulled via RSS feed onto the Ning. Just use delicious or your blog to tag your post or a resource and it will go to bloggers around the world.
  • edubloggerworldmeetup2007 For all virtual meetups held in 2007.
  • edubloggerworld2008 The tag for marking events to share with the edublogger community that will occur in 2008.

Talking Points Tags


These are current tags for talking points.
The group today suggested we enter a brainstorming phase for two weeks -- do we want a tag for that or just use the talking points tags and come up with new talking points as they see fit (since everything should be tagged edubloggerworld.) What do you think?

OK, I'm going to be "off the grid" a few days, I have several huge deadlines this weekend!


So, what do you think? Here is a copy of what we're asking everyone to do now:

  1. Read/ listen to and share the transcripts.
  2. Hold more sessions within your sphere of influence to discuss these ideas. (tag them edubloggerworld_brainstorm)
  3. Join the wiki, ning, and airset calendar.
  4. Look at the talking points and mark your area of interest.
  5. Talk about it!

We're currently planning to be in a brainstorming phase for the next two weeks starting today on August 23rd where the blogosphere will discuss these items and the potential for our cooperation (further than the blogging we're already doing) to see if there is enough interest. (Some people like the blogosphere as is.)


Now, bloggers are an independent, creative group, and no where in any discussions have I seen anyone who advocates getting rid of the spontaneity, excitement, and learning that is inherent in the blogosphere.

Instead it is more, putting teeth to the complaints that many of us have had:

  • Why aren't more new folks coming on?
  • How can we make it easier?
  • How can the average classroom teacher find things for their classroom?
  • How can we not miss important events?
  • How can we include newcomers?
  • How can we harness the voice of the blogosphere to promote and help change in education?
  • How can we promote the exchange of best practices?
  • How can we promote grassroots efforts that include nonbloggers?
  • How?
I think it is a matter of how do we work together to answer the questions that we'd like to see answered. This is a grassroots effort that came directly out of the edublogger con at NECC this year and is not the idea of any one person -- I believe every blogger in the blogosphere can credit themselves if they have discussed even one of these items.

We're tired of reinventing the wheel! We're tired of missing out! We want to include newcomers and my goodness it shouldn't have to be so hard!

How can we share our enthusiasm and expose teachers to these things. But more importantly, how can we facilitate connections between teachers of all disciplines who may or may not be able to integrate technology in the classroom (due to current funding levels or availability) but certainly can integrate technology to connect to one other.

To me, as Sharon Peters said in our elluminate today, it is about removing the T (technology) and putting in the E (education) into our efforts. (I might add, perhaps even to remove the Me and put in the We -- Edunomics if you will instead of Wikinomics.)

It needs to be more than a "techie" thing and involve a grassroots efforts of educators to connect and discuss.

So, join in. Please tag your posts edubloggerworld. If you want to discuss a specific item you're passionate about -- join the wiki, sign up that you're interested, leave a message on the discussion tab or edit the wiki, and host a session yourself to talk with others. Call four friends and record the conversation about this and release it as a podcast. Interview others. Discuss, discuss, and most importantly share (and use the standard tags so that those discussing will take a look at your thoughts -- even if they are to vehemently disagree that anything should be done.)

If you don't like the ideas and the direction, say why and for goodness sakes, suggest an alternative solution to some of these problems. Edubloggerworld may not exist in 10 years, but perhaps it can birth some really useful things that will truly change education for the long haul. It is not important that "it" exist -- it is important that we begin connecting, making meaning, and stop whining about what we wish would happen and figure out if we can do something about it.

Everyone is welcome. Consider this your personal invitation to join in.

I cannot guarantee that everything is perfectly organized, but if you find something you don't like -- fix it OK?

Let's use this stuff we talk about all day.

What do you think?

Oh, and if you want to know how this airset thing works and want to add your free, educational, non-commercial event, view the following video:



E-mail me if you have problems adding your event or want to join at coolcatteacher at gmail.com.

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Take your class Sky High with Google Earth





Ok, teachers of science. Go to Google and download the latest version of Google Earth and you will have a super cool new feature called Google Sky! View Google's mini tour to the left (which they handily posted to youtube.)

This lets you turn heavenward to look at constellations and all sorts of things! You can explore: planets, constellations, the moon, galaxies, the life of a star, and the atmosphere.

I'm also fascinated by the Google Earth Community which allows you to make and share these files.

Ideas for use:
  • Use it in junior high for earth science to interactively explore the sky.
  • Discuss the life of a star.
  • Use it on your smartboard to explore, zoom in, and discuss things.
  • The Hubble Telescope images are available to you and your students!
This is such a great tool for the science classroom. I haven't looked at the feature that allows you to look at the atmosphere, but what could you do with a study of the environment? You can study the atmosphere over various places in the world. So cool!

This is fascinating!

P.S. One of my students from last year found this and came in to tell me -- oh so cool! I'm proud that he's still learning and exploring (and sharing!)

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What do you think?



I'm helping out my friend Ellen who writes for a popular magazine -- she has the following question -- one that I love. Please respond here. Also share the name of your school.

Web 2.0 opens many new avenues for creativity and expression. How do you use it to teach today’s young authors and artists?

What do you think?

This is my answer:

I believe that Web 2.0 allows students multiple methods of displaying their knowledge and through a variety of assessment methods: podcasts, text on wikis, photography, video creations, videos of interviews, or blog posts -- that all learning styles are included. These tools also are magnets for student interest because they use cool new tools that they are attracted to naturally.

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Come and talk about how we should facilitate connections!



Today at 3:30 pm EST - 4:15 EST I will be hosting a global meetup to talk about how we can facilitate connections and communications between educators around the world. There is only room for 50 participants so you may enter the room at around 3:15 -- first come first server. (ha ha)

Join us in the elluminate room, and remember, we will be recording. (If you want it to convert your time, go to our Airset Calendar and set yourself up with an account -- after you specify your local time, you're set.)

Everyone is welcome to add their FREE educator event to this calendar. Learn how today!

We'll talk more later -- gotta go review for a test!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I disagree with suspending the purchase of textbooks



I just have to disagree with someone I usually agree with.

Wes calls for the suspension of textbook purchasing:

"The purchase of paper-based textbooks, along with the dearth of analog testing materials now flooding most public K-12 schools, represents an enormous WASTE of taxpayer money which should be spent on more relevant and flexible curriculum resources and tools for learners: Namely, wireless, mobile computing devices (laptops) and digital curriculum materials."
I think that a digital only classroom at this time is as untenable as a paper-only classroom.

I am a visual learner and have to have a hard copy in my hands!

I am working with four students taking the virtual high school here in Georgia and they have their reading assignments per unit -- after struggling with taking notes, etc. we finally had one student print out the units and then I went and copied it for all four of them.

Paper and laptop go hand in hand nicely.

I personally have to underline, write, rewrite, take notes in the margin and work with the text. I just have to. It is how I learn. Some would say -- ok, tablet pc's can do all that -- but sometimes they run out of battery and even if they can, I need paper too.

But now that my virtual students have paper too -- they can do much better on their essays, discussion boards, elluminate conferences, and everything electronic.

Yes, there is certainly waste! And the test prep materials are certainly a waste in my book -- have a great curriculum and you'll have a great test. So, I agree that there is lots of wasteful spending.

However, to get rid of all textbooks to force change is akin to cutting off a foot to get rid of the nail stuck in it.

And the great online curricular textbooks (which are being used by these virtual high schoolers) are marvelous -- but it still doesn't eliminate the need for something on paper.

I know, I tried to encourage the kids to go digital only and download on their jumpdrive for over a week as they floundered and tried to get a handle on what they were to do.

It changed my mind about 100% digital classroom.

I believe in engaging every single sense in teaching. And while we certainly buy way more paper than perhaps we should -- I think the focus on eliminating paper is probably better suited to getting rid of the morning bulletin and sending it over e-mail than cutting out textbooks.

I use wikis and blogs and more but I have a paper textbook for EVERY class. I also have a book on CD for every class as well and give students the option to use either.

But the paper book goes hand in hand with what I do and serves as a starting point. A virtual starting gun in the race to acquire knowledge.

I just have to disagree on this one.

I would rather say -- every teacher must be required to integrate multisensory technological tools in every course.

Call the moratorium on the exclusion of technology not on paper.

I am a radical for improving education, however, so many teachers get tired of the pendulum swinging back and forth in their administrations!

If it works -- let it work and help it get better -- improve it. Just remember, to totally eliminate all textbooks in all classes to all teachers in one year would be way too much for most teachers to handle (even me!)

Use good sense and build on the giants in teaching who have gone before us. Improve it with great new tools like wikis and blogs (see my post below on wikis) and make it better.

One reason that my school has done well is that when the pendulum swung and many got rid of what had worked for ages -- phonics based learning and replaced it with whole language -- we didn't. We used whole language strategies in certain areas but stayed focused squarely on phonics and continue to have every child reading by the end of K5, particularly after adding a multisensory approach to learning in K3 and K4. Take what works and make it better. But throw out what doesn't. Such radical moves aren't good for a profession already in a lot of flux.

I think Wes has the right intentions, but I certainly hope that people think and test with pilot groups before making large scale sweeping decisions like this.

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Welcome back WOW2 show tonight!



The northern hemisphere of this big blue marble is heading back to school this time of year. So, we're talking to as many teachers as possible tonight on Wow2.

If you're online in skype tonight, watch out -- send me a chat and let me know you'd like to share your back to school goals or cool new tools and we'll try to pull you in!

(I'm coolcatteacher -- if you request my details, tell me the specifics of who you are or I won't "accept" you!)

It is at 9 pm Eastern Standard time at edtechtalk.com and will be a lot of fun -- just chatting about the cool new things we've found.

If you've never joined in one of these, just click listen on the right hand side and click Chat underneath it -- you can listen and also chat live with educators just like you from around the world! So much fun!

And hopefully some of our southern hemisphere colleagues will jump in and talk about their amazing insights as they approach their halfway mark!

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The most common struggles when introducing wikis in the classroom



Teaching is tough work, I mean, really tough. I've been a business professional, general manager, entrepreneur, and stay at home mom, and the only job tougher than being a teacher is a stay at home mom with toddlers!

The first two-three weeks are difficult because you have to "train" the kids.

Teach them the routines. Teach them the tools. Learn the process.

This is my sixth set of students to have to teach how to wiki and each time, it is the same questions which cause a huge growth in critical thinking ability require a lot of coaching. Here are the most common things I see from the approach of having small teams create a wiki:

Students want to have one student type and the other sit by and watch and both get the same grade.

As much as I love project based learning -- very often, students are not equal contributors in offline projects. Some have just gotten comfortable that their assigned partner will do the job.

This is my theory: if you ask most teachers, they don't pair students with similar strengths (after all, that wouldn't be fair, they say.) So, they pair strong-weak, strongest-weakest, strong-weak. It just seems to be the pattern.

So, when everyone makes a great grade, they pat themselves on the back and say "great project."

However, when one goes to a wiki, you can pair any type of student, and although I like to give a group grade (I always grade via the history tab (via my RSS reader) to determine the level of collaboration. ) If one student bore the brunt of the project, then their grade reflects it. If the other just added punctuation, then their grade reflects that as well.

Technology enables us to measure individual contribution to a group project!


However, it is so difficult to teach this process -- every student has to come up and contribute. AND the stronger students have to stand back and let those who may not be as strong make their own contribution. Sometimes the weaker students want to contribute but may have an overbearing partner!

Wikis basically let you dissect group dynamics and get to what is really happening!

My introductory wiki exercise


I am teaching wikis today to the ninth grade and this was our second day. After another two days, they will have it down, I think in terms of the technology.

You can see the assigned lesson here, but the student work is still definitely in progress. (We have two more days left.)

This is certainly a time of year when I am spending 100% of class time on my feet, coaching, teaching, and encouraging. Praise for great things. ("Everyone look at the __ wiki, they did a great job embedding the photo.") Catching bad habits before they become bad habits. ("I'm telling her/him what to type as we sit here." and "Can't I just copy from the book?")

I can see how someone just starting with wikis would say "I don't have time for this."

However, I can promise you, that if you'll stick it out and then use it consistently that it will work beautifully! And by the end of the year, they will be so engrossed in their projects, they will be autonomous and you can just focus on coaching and moving to a higher level. (Really, the students will be so much more autonomous by their next project, I'll scratch my head and say , "Is this the same class?")

I just have to keep focused on how it will be so I can make it through how it is now!

I give projects that take both students to complete, and the stronger students will be concerned that a "weaker" partner will hurt their grade. That is where I show them the history. They are held accountable for their contribution! I know how much they can do as an individual -- if they do their part, they will receive an appropriate grade.

After receiving this assurance and seeing how meticulous I grade them (and the first wiki I grade extremely meticulously!) -- they will settle down. Usually, they are extremely pleased when we start doing video with their partners artistic/ creative talents and realize that everyone can contribute to the project!

This is great because I think that "academic snobbery" can be as harmful as the "jocks" picking on the scrawny kid in the locker room. No one likes to be looked down upon and everyone has something to contribute!

Students shine when they realize they have something they do very well and having multiple methods of contribution: wiki, blog, podcast, video -- gives everyone a strength.

Teaching past the book.

Students initially want to copy or slightly paraphrase from the book -- they are scared that they will somehow be "wrong" if they trust their understanding. I watch for plagiarism of both the book and the web.

I want them to teach me something. They have to cite sources and look on the Internet to find more resources.

If we're talking about a word and no one knows the meaning -- I tell them to define it using Google (just type define: and then the word) -- and then explain it in their own words.

I want to get students out of the book and into correlating the book and various sources of information with their own knowledge and coming up with meaning. I always say that regurgitation is gross any way you look at it -- don't tell me what the book says, what do you think? And if you don't know, how are you going to find the answer? What can you do to find out the answer? Make it make sense. Be able to explain it.

Can I have fun?

Today, I had the question I always get at the beginning, one student wanted to post a photo and the other said it wasn't "serious" enough. Their question was "Can we have fun with these?" My answer was: your audience is beginners, if it is appropriate and professional and adds meaning -- yes you can have fun.

They know what is appropriate! We're going to embed toondoo's tomorrow in their project. So what if it is about RAM, and cache, and uber-geeky stuff -- it is going to be enjoyable because it is making a cartoon.

The adrenaline rush of making their own complete page full of text, links, photos, video, and graphics like toondoo is exciting to kids. It gives them the power to be a creator and have something to go home and pin on the virtual fridge of their parents inbox to say -- "Hey, Mom, look at this -- look at what I know!"

My question: Can I make it through the first three weeks?

I think this is my question. I'm glad that I have a strategy for introducing these things (and there is one.)

However, in all of my classes, I am training new students who need to catch up, and getting previous students into new routines for the new class -- setting expectations of a new, higher level and what I want them to understand.

Add all of the IT responsibilities on top of my five (and soon to be six classes) and I'm really tired.

My question: Can I keep a positive attitude?

It is when I get this tired that I start getting a little grumpy and find myself thinking whiny thoughts.

That is when I remind myself that I am exactly where I want to be: in the throes of this nutty, busy life -- doing the most meaningful work of my life: parenting my kids and teaching everyone who comes through my door.

I have to keep the main thing the main thing. It is a fight to keep positive when you're a teacher. And if you're empathetic (like me) watch out! It can be like living on a roller coaster!

However, keeping the hope of a better tomorrow is vital to being a teacher who gets things done.

Knowing that you can make a difference is a key ingredient to the recipe of a good education.

To rob a school or teacher or child of hope is to rob them of their very life and reason for being and to invite them to mentally drop out. (Which happens far before a person drops out physically.) Mental drop outs are zombies going through the motions, wishing that someone would wake them up and give them something to be excited about!

So, let me ask you -- as you start school, feel overwhelmed, and ache from every bone of your body -- can you keep a positive attitude too?

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The Digital Citizenship Imperative



I just had a presentation from three tenth grade computer science students that literally blew me away on avoiding e-mail scams and internet fraud.

(This is part of the initial internet security and safety module we do first in computer science -- I do a scaled down version in fundamentals. Safety first!)

They shared the 2006 list of Top Ten Internet Scam Trends from the NCL fraud center.

Here are some points that they made:
  • Consumers under the age of 30 account for 27% of all internet fraud complaints (as the victims) --but they are more likely to fall for auction scams (items sold but not delivered), general merchandise, advance fee loans, and fake check scams (where someone sends you a check but then wants a refund and you wire it back before their check clears.)

  • Auctions are the #1 fraud item on the Internet with an average loss of $1,331 and that is not nearly as high as it was in 2003 before ebay removed the link on their site to fraud.org.

  • Initial contact with crooks has now shifted to be mostly on web pages and not e-mails (69%).



    We just think of spam and unwitting senior citizens but statistically only 8% of victims are over 60.
An increasing number of people in foreign countries are taking money via Internet scams with 42% of "crooks" being based in foregn countries. Additionally, the top method of taking money is wire transfer (46%) with the second method being credit card (20%)

We require students to take driving lessons because we want to keep our roads safe. I believe that we have an imperative to teach Digital Citizenship -- which encompasses far more than safety and privacy but how to effectively relate to others on the Internet.

I think this is a great case to look at in classes who are studying digital citizenship -- it may just blow away some of their stereotypes as it did mine.

We must not think that because we are more technically savvy that this sort of thing cannot happen to those we know. Just because a child knows how to use a computer does not impart wisdom into the brain behind the fingers. It is our job to educate.

What are you doing to teach digital citizenship?

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Be part of an Idea: Edubloggerworld



Edubloggerworld
And there is another exciting project that I haven't talked enough about -- the kickoff of Edubloggerworld is this Thursday.

There are so many things that are being worked on with this, but here is the idea.
  • A centralized clearinghouse for FREE non-commercial events for educators -- whether you are a blogger or not. (perhaps including the word blogger is a misnomer -- it is sort of by bloggers but for all educators.) We have a calendar in airset and anyone who signs up as a global greeter can add dates.

  • What is a global greeter? The goal is to have someone from every country. It is time to truly have international cooperation. In fact, several groups have already been created on the ning for other countries, but we need more. But a global greeter is someone that a new person can contact to say "Hey, give me some direction here - how can I connect into the edublogosphere, SLedusphere, webcastedusphere, or whatever your interest is. "

    But it is about connecting real educators who help each other. And as we sign up the greeters, we hope to help facilitate a core group to help with this sort of thing using wikis, and some smart, planned tagging.

  • How do we plan and talk? We have a wiki to discuss and talk, and it is a work in process. We're all so busy, but there are some things we need to hash out.

    For example, there are some incredible presentations that got rejected for k12online this year (yes, yes, including Julie's and my ambitious plans to create a flat classroom project for as many educators as possible that wasn't accepted either) that need to be brought out.

    I want to hear one colleague on assessing in a Web 2 world, and from several others. We want to facilitate an edubloggercon of sorts, where you can post that you have an idea for a session -- and express the type of method you'll use -- an elluminate room you operate, a skypecast, a webcast, or just a post and intentional discussion about a topic -- then, via the wiki, people interested in attending can "sign up" to attend -- you come up with a time, post it on the group calendar and have the meeting.



    My background is in being left out. In fact, I relive it every day with two middle schoolers who have many of the same issues I had. ( My daughter and I had a good cry tonight on her being chosen last for everything today.) I know what it is like to feel like you have something to contribute and to be ignored.

    This is an effort to make a place where we can contribute and learn from one another -- where newcomers are welcome and we talk about how to improve communications between ourselves.

    For example, I've been very "out of it" in July and August and feel like I know nothing of what is "going on."

    There should be a place that facilitates people plugging in to the great free resources out there and be a place to facilitate people BEING great free resources out there!

    Join in. I'm hosting a small gathering in Elluminate on Thursday at 3:30 pm EST - 4:15 pm EST -- and will post the link on the edublogger ning on Thursday. (To convert the time, set yourself up on airset, and then access the calendar, it will convert all events to your time.) It is your chance to come in and for us to use the whiteboard to talk about some ideas and issues we have with the way the edublogosphere is going and to talk about how we can make things better.

    This doesn't mean that what we're doing is broken -- it can just perhaps be better. I have a good non-blogger friend who reads the blogosphere -- that often talks about the problem with the blogosphere is that we read each other's work and we think "that's it" -- if you don't blog, you don't exist.

    Then, you've got the majority of people who bloggers often lament "don't get it" - it is not that they "don't get it" but that no one has connected with them in a way that makes their lives better. In fact, who says that everyone has to be just alike anyway? I don't like it when people say "they don't get it" -- we all have the same aim (hopefully) a world class education. And if that is so, if it is relevant and we show them tools that will help them do their job better -- it doesn't really matter if they like us or not -- we've helped enable better education. And that is what most of us are about, I hope -- helping others who are in the same boat as we are!

    The bottom line is that we have got great ways to connect and we need to be using them more effectively to connect more than just bloggers. So, come on over Thursday and I'll share some ideas but mostly get you to talk about some of yours -- there will also be some sessions in SL and in other forums as well! (And I only have seats for 50.)
Control Conspiracy?

Conspiracy theories always abound and some say something about "control" but you know what -- no one has to join -- this is for those who like the idea of some cooperative efforts to facilitate communication -- if you're not passionate about that, you'll still be just as much a part of things blogging on your own. I just think it is time to stop whining about how others aren't joining in and make it easier.

And there are some easy way to add things to the calendar, if it is an event in 2007, tag it edubloggerworld2007 and if it is 2008 edubloggerworld2008 -- in delicious and in your blog -- and it will be fed to the resources over there for those who will be looking at it for calendar information.

So, join in, even if it to use the tag when you find an event -- such a painless way to share events. And remember, we're looking for free educational resources available on the Internet -- this isn't for commercial promotion.

If you come over to this project expecting a neatly packaged uber-planned out idea, you won't find it. We've been working for a while putting things in place -- but those who have planned it -- we're calling ourselves connectors, that is it.

So, join in!
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I speak as a person who is pretty much an island unto myself at my school and I had to find out everything the hard way and trust me, I had to screw up a lot! I remember going into Tapped in for a session and getting stuck in the reception area!

I don't have a lot of time but when I do, I'd love to immediately go and say -- Hey, this is happening over here and I want to learn about it-- and join in. It just needs to be easier so we can be more efficient and effective. (Spoken like a true Georgia Tech Grad.)

Ok, so hope to see you there on Thursday!

Vicki

This week at Westwood: What we're doing and talking about



This is the second full week of school and I'm almost through what I call my "orientation time."

  • My keyboarding class (8th grade) has to learn that they come in quickly, get to work, and get to business. No goofing off, get to work. I always give out bonus notes (+5 points) the first week of school to the first student (s) who begin typing their lesson first. They save it and add it on to the grade of their choice before report cards go out. It means that the kids often run to class to be first (and I have to watch for that), however, it also means that they get to business. I think teachers who waste time at the beginning of class don't take their job seriously. (I say start quickly, get it done, and then enjoy the teachable moments at the end of class. But if you're stressing about getting your objectives done at the end of the class, you miss the valuable time at the end when you really have breakthroughs with your students.)

  • My Computer Fundamentals class (9th grade) has the routine down but has to learn some independence. I give all classes a copy of the lesson plan, but most students are so oriented to the teacher at the front talking, some literally don't start until the teacher says -- "Now, class, do this." The lesson plan approach allows students who work more quickly to move ahead and then get to "dessert" (fun end of class activities) faster. It also means that the students become more independent. They also have to learn how to use the private ning (sorry it is private), the meaning of an effective blog post, how to hyperlink, and of course -- how to wiki. The first two weeks are so tough and my feet are killing me -- but once I get through these fundamental hurdles of building their skillset, it does get easier.

  • My computer science class (10th) has already got the routines and basic technologies down -- now I have to teach them how to think and move past the textbook.

    We had presentations today on our Security and Privacy module. I also have the students editing the wikis of the students last year -- I have two classes so they have to work on the same wiki together and leave messages on the discussion tab.

    I do this because last year they learned to create from scratch, now I have to prepare them for Flat Classroom in October and they need to learn how to work with others, use the discussion tabs, and edit work to make it better. They also have to learn how to research and answer questions and get past the book. I do not like regurgitation and detest plagiarism. Setting expectations and teaching how to improve is vital.

    During the presentations today, the students presented to the class using the visual of their choice, handed out notes to the class, AND had to turn in the four most important questions from their section with answers for potential inclusion on the test -- and they'll tell you that sometimes creating the question is much tougher than anything else they do. I know that this activity often teaches them more than anything I do.

    I always look for something in their presentation that they are saying "because the book says it" but they don't understand it. I do not want them to go to college and think that they can do that -- at a good school (or in business) - there is nothing worse than being "called on the carpet." I will always "call them" on it and use it as a teachable moment.

    There is a kind way to do this but sometimes it is embarrassing. That is the nice thing about doing these presentations in two or three person teams -- it minimizes some of that. I'll tell you though, that by the end of this year, they'll be good enough to go head to head with a tough prof or businessman. And that is what I'm getting them ready for. I'm being tough now so they'll thank me later.

  • Current Events (12th) -- I begged to teach this class -- some others have asked me why I wanted to teach this class but I believe it is one of the most important classes I could teach. The curriculum as we have structured it is the application of history to today's current events.

    But my primary objective is teaching students to look at multiple sides of an issue.

    The thing that bothers me most about the political scene in the US is that it seems that both sides of the aisle are stuffing their hands over their ears and yelling "Na na na, I can't hear you" on so many issues.

    Having worked for Senator Nunn, one of the all time greats in our US Senate, I came out of his office knowing that the truly great men and women, listen to both sides and make up their own mind -- (and do their best to represent their constituents if they are in office.)

    This trait of one sided ignorance is so very dangerous. We must understand both sides of an issue so that we can make an intelligent decision. That is why in college I actually signed up to take a class that studied the works of Neitzsche, Darwin, and Marx along with others who shaped Eastern European thought of the mid 1900's. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. It did not usurp my viewpoints and core beliefs but rather helped me understand a different point of view.

    I think it comes down to respecting others and their viewpoints. And it is this ability to understand that all issues have multiple sides and not to blindly accept what others tell you, but rather, make an educated decision for yourself is a core value -- the ability to chose -- but to choose from a standpoint of knowledge and not because somebody told you to! We are learning a lot and having an exciting time.
My student's proposal for politicians about privacy

We are also discussing a lot about digital citizenship, privacy, and the fact that one should never publish on the Internet anything you wouldn't share in public, because it may end up there!

We had a marvelous discussion about the Intelius post I shared with you (see it's my privacy or is it.) We talked about public records and what they are, but that this company (and others) are combining public records with information that they type on website profiles in a lethal combination. This is what my students proposed:

They believe that we should advocate that although the records are public, if anyone purchases records on individual -- the individual who was "searched" deserves to know who requested the information. That puts the power back on the individual and can protect victimization.


I think this proposal makes a lot of sense and am personally going to look into information about privacy bills and what is happening in this area. $7.99 seems like a small price to pay to get someone's private address and information -- and how can they buy our social security numbers?

Yes, this information is public and searchable, but you can tell a great society by how it takes care of the weak and defenseless. In this case, I believe that the popularization of such services is something that will create victims, like my class said -- unless the individuals being searched are notified. This allows those who are still not cognizant of the Internet and what it means to be protected and I believe something that Congress should consider.

Other exciting areas:
  • We're ramping up to provide parent access to our online gradebook system. We set up a "dummy" student and I'm going to create some tutorials for our website about how to use the system. It is exciting! Although it makes some nervous, I found that when my grades were online, I had less communication issues with parents and could focus on grading and getting things in the system.
  • I'm excited about the Special Olympics Bocce Ball tournament that we'll be hosting here in September! It is always a highlight of our fall and the 60+ students that come out to work with the special olympians leave just as happy and transformed as the olympians themselves. I believe that such a Saturday event is as important as anything that I teach in the classroom.

  • Been playing with Camtasia this week -- they have a 30 day free trial on their website and I must say I ADORE IT! I'm going to have to find the money to buy this super gem. I believe that every department responsible for professional development should know how to screencast and this is a vital tool for them. Such a great way to share information! I'm going to start doing little short tutorials for my teachers on the software of the month!

    I'm also excited about edubloggerworld -- more in the next post!
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Its my privacy, or is it? (and what it means for our students)



simulpost with TechLearning

I am editing to explain more clearly how this is different from regular public records. Several bloggers have noted that this information is already available, which some of it is. My additions are in italics.

Ethics discussions belong "smack dab in the middle" of schools so that students will understand when they are adults that just because they can, doesn't mean they should.

We have had some interesting class discussions about the new company Intelius which for $15 dollars will sell your cell phone number, unlisted number, social security number and more for a fee. (I think it is perhaps this purchase of cell phone numbers and unlisted numbers which is NOT in the public records database as most bothersome.)

I looked up myself and it had every address I've ever lived (since turning 21) and the following information for ONLY $49.95 and although I have no criminal record, I was stalked in college and it is that which bothers me most!

BACKGROUND REPORT INCLUDES (WHEN AVAILABLE):
#
# STATEWIDE CRIMINAL CHECK
SEX OFFENDER CHECK
#
# BANKRUPTCIES & LIENS
SMALL CLAIMS & JUDGMENTS
#
# ADDRESS HISTORY
RELATIVES & ASSOCIATES
#
# NEIGHBORS
HOME VALUE & DETAILS
#
# NEIGHBORHOOD INFO
SATELLITE & MAP IMAGES
#
# ALIAS NAMES
MUCH MORE...


Goodbye privacy! Hello, whoever shows up on my doorstep that doesn't like me!

My students were very disturbed and pointed out two things that bothered them in particular:

1) The photograph:



My students felt it implied some sort of stalking or finding someone who may not want to be found. In their words, "that photo creeps me out."

This shows a man approaching a woman on her front porch with the door open.

For me, it brings back very bad memories of a time when a boy in college who had one date wanted another date and much more from me and I was not interested in him. It was a very scary time in which every guy friend I knew took turns escorting me and ultimately -- there were times I was approached when others still weren't around. (Like the time he started "dating" a girl down the hall but still stopped by my room and left messages.) This was solved by a change of address -- but in today's world -- I doubt that a change of address or cell phone number change would help!

This bothers me. It also bothers me that they can search for and find my relatives and close associates, and the value of my home, who my neighbors are, and a satellite map of my house. It seems a little to prepackaged and easy to me.


2) The subtitles

These subtitles are under the photograph.

The right knowledge can make all the difference.

That’s why millions of people rely on Intelius to deliver the information they need to protect their interests and maneuver in a complex world.

Live in the know. Live Inteliusly.


They felt that maneuver was a Machiavellian sort of hint that made them very uncomfortable. (Yes, they said that -- go History teacher!)

As we discussed the other information that could be harmful, they asked:

"What happens when a company figures out archiving people's myspace accounts and will sell you every iteration of a myspace page? (Even after it is "cleaned up" when you get ready for a job.) Or what if someone who has a whole lot of friends decides to sell screen shots of the pages of their friends? "
I also tire of the telemarketers calling me and had my name put on several no-call lists. This means that these numbers can more easily go back on the call list as this company generates leads for others (i.e. give me the name and cell phone # of those who make above $XX).

My goodness!


It also means, that even those who avoid the Internet now have private information on the Internet (and probably don't know it.)

The Right to Privacy
Yes, knowledge is power, but in this case, we have a right to privacy as well.

By the way, I am immediately having myself removed from this service by going to http://www.intelius.com/privacy-faq.php#5 and following the information. Although, by reading the information below, it is doubtful it will do much good!

It does require faxing information to them (which makes me wonder if they will not harvest my fax number.)

Here is what the company says about removing your information:

How can I remove my information from the Intelius public records databases?
Public records, by law, must be available from the official public records office to anyone who requests them. Accordingly, because individuals cannot opt out of public records databases generally, Intelius does not offer individuals the opportunity to opt out of our public records databases. In order for any database of public records to be useful, the databases must contain all of the information in the public records offices. Our data files must accurately reflect the underlying public records, and we do not remove or suppress any information that is both accurate and publicly available. For example, if a bank is going to lend money to a company, it has to be certain that a search of the public records databases will reveal all of the previous encumbrances against the company, so that it can effectively evaluate the risk involved in making the loan.

If you have a compelling privacy or security issue, you may wish to contact the official custodians of those public records that contain sensitive information about you, such as your county's land records office, to determine how to remove your information from the public record. (The process of having public records sealed typically requires a court order.) This process will ensure that the information is not available from the public records custodian, Intelius, or any other information provider.

As a courtesy we can temporarily 'opt out' your information from the Intelius People Search.

Fax or mail your name and address as it appears on our website. Or print the page from our website that includes your information.

Please note that removing the data here does not prevent public records from sending us new information in the future.

Intelius fax number: (425) 974-6194

Intelius, Inc.
Attn: CUSTOMER SERVICE
500 – 108th Ave NE #1660
Bellevue, WA 98004


So, how does this relate to education?

Safety
It relates in every sort of way. Stalking just got a whole lot easier as did predatory behavior. It means that our children's and our own names have become even more important! (Particularly our full names.)

How we use full names
If someone finds out a parent's name, they now know everything they need to know about the child. (They don't seem to have children under 21 in there -- yet.)

We already don't ID children and require the use of pseudonyms and first names in photographs only, however, now identifying parents can be just as harmful. And we often use full name in honor rolls or send it in press releases to newspaper articles.

It is just that we haven't really viewed our own names as private and I'm not really sure how society would function if we begin to. (What do we print on report cards - Full names!) My goodness, our mail has our name on it -- if someone steals mail out of our mailbox, could they now have the key to our lives?

Password security
It also means that we need to teach children (and teachers) methods of creating a password that will not include information from a public record. The first trick of hackers is often to find out the name of a person's relatives because most often, those are in a person's password.

Identity protection
Identity theft has also become easier. I'm not an expert, but am going to find one and read their book.

Educating kids
Kids need to know that these things follow them. I am using this company as a case study in ethics in all of my classes. Let's give them the knowledge to understand what will follow them!

I'm sure if we took a moment, we could think of even more issues for us to consider as educators and guardians of a lot of private information.


What can we do?

Although this information comes from public records, it has become much more easily accessible. I believe that public records should be under the same if not more stringent requirements than our medical doctors and should require a release to send this information to another party.

I believe that we must educate all children (and their parents) about privacy and safety. Not just from a fear perspective but as a positive approach. I will however say, that this company strikes fear in the heart of even pretty optimistic me.

We have a problem. The dollar has become more important than fundamental belief in right and wrong. So, as much as I do not like big government and bureaucracy -- I believe where the privacy and safety of our citizenry (and truly the world citizenry) are considered, that we cannot be too safe.

What do you think? In particular, how does it need to change what we do in schools?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Peer review and the ice cream effect!



We had a great group of peer reviewers for the Horizon Project including Chrissy (Teaching Sagitarian) from New Zealand. It was great to have a global audience (and honestly, sometimes students listen better to their peers than they do to adults,) but as I've talked to both her and Graham in Australia, I have to wonder about the influence of peer review on the class that is reviewing.

How about the excitement that it brings?

I think that there is a power in peer review and although a middle school student may not have the capability or skill set to produce at the level of Horizon Project students who participated, they definitely have the ability to provide feedback and learn from what they are reading.

In essence, the students of Horizon created a textbook on the future that middle schoolers got very excited about.

What about this as a model for teaching and restructuring what we do in the future. This is not only peer review but peer modeling because it is coming from older, more mature students.

Chrissy posted today about Inquiry Learning, and as she did so, she had a comment at the end of this fascinating post:

We’re keen on looking at various inventions such as medical equipment, communication devices, games, visual display, etc, and the impact of technology on our lifestyle. Can you tell that my students have been heavily influenced by being involved in the Horizon Project?


I have to wonder if peer review has what I call the "ice cream effect" on the reviewers.

The ice cream effect happens when we see another person eat a delicious ice cream -- eventually our mouth is watering and we want an ice cream too!

Does witnessing such interaction with students around the world make these middle schoolers salivate for such an experience themselves?

Does it show them what they can be and how they can take it further?


Do they tell themselves, "I can do that, and better."

(Anyone want to research this with the next project?)

I think that effective peer review at all levels is something that seems to be happening in isolation but could do a lot to connect and excite students. Chrissy is on to something with her observations ... now, to help her with a title for her unit.

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Sources:
She eats Ice Cream in Harajuku - http://www.flickr.com/photos/wili/263951188/

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back to Teachin' and Bloggin'



115 degrees and lawnmower accidents

Yeah -- we're back in school --but getting back here was a near fiasco --
  • a heat wave with a heat index of 115 and my compressor went out in my computer lab,
  • my oldest son went off of a bridge on a heavy duty lawnmower due to a brake malfunction (but fortunately came out of it with only a cracked elbow!),
  • and another of my children started middle school -- Whew! it is Nutty.
But when someone said to me the other day:

"If you could be anywhere, doing anything in the world right now, what would it be?"

It hit me like a "ton of bricks" -- really, I am exactly where I want to be. I love teaching!

When that bell rings and the kids fill their seats and begin work (usually before the bell rings) and when we get to talking about the cool tools (such a great talk about Microsoft Surface the other day) and technologies -- boy, that is a rush any good sky diver could understand. There is nothing like it in the world!

My precious children are here at school with me! I am part of their day and see them grow, learn and struggle. I love it!

And what makes it even better is that I have great administrators with a common belief system. Our principal has one rule "Do right." He tells us and the kids, "If you have to ask, its not right and don't do it." I could go on and on but I know how fortunate we are to have such great administrators... it seems that the high pressure and temptation to disconnect from the classroom have bred many administrators who aren't reaching their full potential.

Why I'm going to keep blogging

After taking a bit of a hiatus from blogging (for obvious reasons), I am back at this blog with a confirmed calling that I am indeed part of this educational discussion.

When the honeymoon of blogging wears off

Beginning bloggers beware, at some point as you become more connected with incredible educators, you will also find that there are those out there who may be great but just don't like you.

Some of these people may e-mail you or comment anonymously or do other things that will wound you and make you feel like, "I don't have time for this" and some may even creep you out!

But, I have found that the only people who don't receive criticism are doing nothing! So, at some point, you have to decide if it is worth it.

For me, it is. The benefits of connecting and blogging both for me and my classroom far outweigh the personal chagrin I feel when personally attacked. (And it makes me that more adamant about teaching effective online interpersonal skills.)

Perhaps I'm just a bit more sensitive right now with the passing of my grandmother over the summer, and I'm sure that's true -- but there must be others out there who think about quitting too or like Kathy Sierra, do quit.

But what does quitting do?

But when we reflect upon Kathy Sierra quitting. Many of us read her blog and learned a lot. We enjoyed her writing style and perspective, and just enjoyed her. And now, two or three jerks have taken her away from inspiring thousands of us who she helped learn and work on a daily basis.

Is that fair?

So, my issues in the blogosphere seem so very small compared to Kathy, but I won't quit -- I am called to blog as surely as I am called to teach and be a mother. I enjoy blogging, it is important to me.

Things to talk about

So, enough about me, let's talk about the cool technology tools that we can get excited about!

Like the super cool Ning that I had for summer assignments (sorry it is private) and the fact that you can now do groups and preapprove video and pics on ning.

Or about the fact that my computer science textbook now has podcasts associated with each chapter (Oh yeah!), and super cool videos embedded on almost every page on the book on CD. (Such a great thing for the students who don't learn well with text. This is something every curriculum director shouldn't just ask for but demand!)

Or how exciting it is that schools can add to their AP curriculum (like we are) with the Virtual High Schools that are cropping up everywhere.

And especially about Edubloggerworld and the things that many of us are working on to help us do a better job of connecting with newcomers to the edublogosphere, whether they are readers or writers. My friend Dr. Shepherd, director of the PhD program for Walden University, has talked to me many times about how us bloggers often don't think that other people exist and must do a better job of reaching out to non bloggers who want to connect and learn. So, I dedicate my work with edublogger world to her and her daughter -- because connecting with others is important.

There are so many things I still have notes to share from NECC and a lot about the importance of common sense tagging. (My goodness, don't create a tagging standard with a two digit year -- let's show that we learned something from Y2K -- only use four digit years, please!)

And there are so many things all of you out there have taught me: at NECC, or as you direct messaged me and I received them on my cell phone as I was walking into Granny's funeral -- the connections with many of you became very personal this summer.

So, welcome school year. Come on to class, you're right on time.

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